Blue Flame Credit Union is building a $2 million headquarters this year with plans to grow its member base.
By Caroline Hudson – Staff Writer, Charlotte Business Journal
A small local credit union is building a $2 million headquarters this year with plans to grow its member base.
Blue Flame Credit Union is a closed-charter credit union founded to serve Piedmont Natural Gas employees, retirees and their family members. Duke Energy Corp. (NYSE: DUK) acquired Piedmont in October 2016. The credit union has about 3,200 members. Its current headquarters is at 4301 Yancey Road in Lower South End.
The new two-story, approximately 7,000-square-foot space is under construction at 2000 Continental Blvd. in Charlotte.
Blue Flame purchased the site in late 2019 for $475,000, according to Mecklenburg County real estate records. Crews demolished an existing building there and are starting on the new one. It will house branch operations on the first floor and back-office staff on the second floor, said Charles Lowe, CEO at Blue Flame.
The new two-story, approximately 7,000-square-foot space is under construction at 2000 Continental Blvd. near Ayrsley.
The building is slated to deliver by the end of this year, Lowe said. It will have a more contemporary design, with a drive-thru at the rear and a walk-up ATM on the side.
“We need to be more open to our community,” Lowe said. “Within a 3- to 4-mile radius, (there’s) not too many credit unions that serve that area. We felt like it (had) good demographics for us to move into.”
Blue Flame is investing now in additional safety features, such as protective barriers and better air filters, to accommodate the ongoing pandemic. Building access will be able to be controlled remotely, if needed.
Lowe said the credit union sees opportunities to grow its member base in south Charlotte. It plans to transition to a community charter to open services to the public. Blue Flame is also part of a shared branch network, giving members access to more than 5,000 locations nationwide, including about 10 in the Charlotte area. The credit union wants to add some business services.
Blue Flame employees have been working from home since the pandemic hit. Lowe said the credit union made investments years ago in its electronic capabilities to function remotely. It also offers online and mobile banking services for customers. He said Blue Flame tries to budget for bigger-bank services, despite its small size. Its overhead costs are relatively low.
The credit union is looking to increase its staff, Lowe said. It has eight full-time employees and one part-time employee. It wants to add a couple of loan officers, service representatives and a back-office position. The credit union hires locally, he said.
Adding more locations in Charlotte is a possibility, Lowe said, although that wouldn’t be for a few more years. Blue Flame is among the Charlotte area’s top 25 credit unions with roughly $32 million in total assets. It has two locations here — the headquarters and a satellite branch on Boyer Street in west Charlotte.
J.D. Goodrum Co. is the general contractor for the new headquarters. C.L. Helt is the project architect.